Last Thursday night at Guastavino's in New York City, authors, artists, publishers and other book-lovers gathered for the seventh annual Carle Honors, hosted by the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
| L.-r.: Abrams's Jason Wells and Charles Kochman celebrate with Mo Willems, who introduced honoree Christopher Cerf, Molly Leach, wife to and book designer for Lane Smith, honored in the "Artist" category.
Jules Feiffer and daughter Kate Feiffer, and Norton Juster, who with his wife, Jeanne Juster, are longtime friends of Eric and Barbara Carle, opened the ceremony. Juster joked that his role was to "give Eric the adulation he's come to expect." He praised Carle for his "heart-stopping stories of mixed-up insects" and announced that Carle would be releasing his first adult book, The Very Horny Bunny Rabbit.
Eric Carle said he was warned that Juster planned to "roast" him, but it wasn't as bad as he'd feared. He announced that November 10 marks the kickoff of the 10th anniversary celebration at the Eric Carle Museum, which was inspired by Japan's 30 museums devoted to picture-book artwork.
Christopher Cerf was honored in the "Bridge" category ("bring[ing] the art of the picture book to larger audiences") as an author, record and TV producer (including the Emmy award–winning Between the Lions for PBS) and composer-lyricist, most notably for the more than 300 songs he's written for Sesame Street. "My dad was lucky enough to publish them," Cerf said; his father, Bennett Cerf, founder of Random House, published The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, illustrated by Jules Feiffer.
Cerf said he credits the Dr. Seuss books with "building the bridge" to other media, and pointed out that prior to The Cat in the Hat, mostly wordless books were used in schools. "I was lucky enough to work on the Beginner Books--I don't know how that happened," he said with a laugh. "At first people thought TV would be inimical to books. But we made a lot of books famous on TV."
Artist Floyd Cooper introduced Kent Brown as not only an educator, editor-in-chief emeritus for Highlights for Children, which he joined 40 years ago, and executive director of the Highlights Foundation, which hosts workshops for authors and artists, but also as Farmer Brown. "Now," Cooper added, "we'll call him Angel Brown" for his Carle Honor indicating his generous financial support of the Carle Museum. Brown said that at a recent board meeting for Highlights, a board member said it best: "It's refreshing to serve on the board of a company that believes in its mission."
Leave Your Sleep collaborators author-lyricist Natalie Merchant and artist Barbara McClintock introduced Francis Foster, their editor and honoree in the "Mentor" category. Foster said that as she was coming up through the ranks, "Who you were was how you mentored." She told an anecdotal gem about being sent as a young assistant to Roald Dahl, to tell him to "tone down his racist characterization of the Oompa-Loompas." She didn't quite understand why she was chosen until she learned that "no one in the department was speaking to Roald Dahl at the time. I was a safe sacrifice." Foster edited Dahl for many years, she said, "until I, too, had the inevitable falling out."
|Legends in the field: (l.-r.) Anita Silvey, Frances Foster and George Nicholson, agent at Sterling Lord Literistic.
Anita Silvey, author and former publisher at Houghton Mifflin Children's Books as well as The Horn Book, introduced Lane Smith, honoree in the "Artist" category. Silvey said that while she was editor of The Horn Book, she predicted that Lane Smith would be "the greatest artist since Chris Van Allsburg." She then made another prediction: "His best is still yet to come." In his acceptance, Lane Smith said, simply, "I am blessed with arrested development, and I know I'll be forever fascinated with childhood." He also thanked his wife, Molly Leach, who "has designed every book I've ever illustrated." --Jennifer M. Brown
photo of Christopher Cerf by Johnny Wolf